Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Review of Les Miserables

Photo courtesy of the gallery at lesmiserablesfilm.com.
Full of flash forwards but lacking in flash, the new musical film Les Miserables wrenches the hearts of all who watch it and bores off the ears of all who hear it.

Before returning to school last week I had the chance to see this movie in Winnipeg's new VIP theatre at the Cineplex (a review of the theatre coming soon), and was it ever a roller coaster ride. The movie stirred such deep emotions in me from the opening song to the closing song, I just might be able to watch The Notebook now with a straight face.

Les Miserables was made known to a lot of non-musical-fans when Susan Boyle performed "I Dreamed A Dream" on the competition show Britain's Got Talent back in April, 2009. Then Glee featured the same song two years ago in a beautiful duet between one of the main characters and her mother.

Today, the musical's name is on everyone's lips and the images of the film can be seen everywhere you go. But, does anyone actually know what the musical is about?

I certainly didn't. I had no clue what the story was about except that at some point Anne Hathaway gets her hair cut off. But now I do know and I have no problem sharing with folks the main points of the story and my opinion on the film.

Don't worry, I won't give any spoilers.

Photo courtesy of the gallery at lesmiserablesfilm.com.
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing some bread for his starving nephew and then trying to escape multiple times. After meeting much hardship, he is taken in by a Bishop who sees the good in him and is given some silver. With this silver, Valjean declares he will become a new man who follows God, and thus Monsieur Madeleine is born.

Flash forward, Valjean/Madeleine is living a good life as a hardworking factory owner and it is at this point when the main story starts.

Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is introduced, secrets are revealed, people sing, more people sing, Valjean is chased by an officer with a grudge against him, someone dies, and by now the audience has been crying for a good half hour.

Soon after, another flash forward occurs and a new story begins. This new story is connected to the old characters by their children and it is equally as tear-wrenching as the first. Although there is some good news. The young couple below, a sort of French Romeo and Juliet, actually have a happy ending.

Photo courtesy of the gallery at lesmiserablesfilm.com.
What I liked about the film:

Visually the movie was very pleasing and the music was epic. With this in mind, it was definitely worth it for me to see the movie in the theatre rather than at home on DVD. 

Hugh Jackman's acting and singing were great and I particularly love the little blond boy who appears in the second half of the movie.

What I did not like about the film:

The constant singing, even when there was no music playing. I think there may have been a total of 3 lines that were spoken. Everything else was said in song. 

The length of the movie was very long. It's likely that in a live performance of the musical there would be a short intermission, and that's exactly what this movie needed. Or perhaps the movie could have been divided into two separate films. 

There wasn't much that I disliked about the film, although I would have loved seeing a little more of Hathaway's character because she is such a great actress and her part was so integral to the second story. I also would have loved seeing a lot more of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter because in such a serious movie, their comedy was a real breath of fresh air.
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